How to Think Happy Thoughts for a Happy Life
If you’re a Disney fan, you know that happy thoughts can help you fly — if you’ve got a little bit of pixie dust. Even without the pixie dust, thinking happy thoughts can lift you up and help you live a happier and more productive life. It sounds like fantasy, but it’s actually backed up by science. Let’s take a closer look at the science behind happy thoughts and how they can help you live a happier life.
How do you measure happiness in a world that puts so much stock in material possessions and career potential? For that, we need to lower our eyes a little bit and take a look at the children. Children don’t have to think about being happy — they find happiness in every bit of their lives. They find joy in landing a new trick on their bike or skateboard, or in the flowers opening in the spring, or in a bug crawling up the side of the house.
Scientifically, we measure happiness in terms of things like health, safety, material well-being and other easily measurable variables. Dutch children are considered the happiest in the world — those in the United States rank 26th out of 29 ranked countries.
Children can teach us how to find joy in the little things — a hot piece of toast fresh from the toaster, warm clothes from the dryer or a hot shower. Finding a little bit of joy in things, just like the kids do, can make thinking happy thoughts a lot easier.
Not everyone sees the world in the same way, and not everyone finds joy in the same things. This fact isn’t a bad thing, and it can actually help us learn new ways to think happy thoughts. Many Eastern cultures don’t show happiness outwardly, because it can have a negative connotation and make others believe that the happy individual is selfish or shallow. That doesn’t mean they aren’t happy individuals or that their lives are unhappy — just that they don’t show it in public.
These same cultures place a great emphasis on family and being together. That sense of belonging lets them find happiness in the most mundane of activities — cooking dinner, watching television or just spending time together.
American families can do the same, but there’s also the underlying focus on the individual — the idea that you have to be able to do everything on your own. This idea can put a lot of pressure on you and make it harder to think those happy thoughts that could help you live a happier life.
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The Science of Happy Thoughts
What does thinking happy thoughts actually do to your brain? The impact is more surprising than you might believe. One study found that individuals who were shown film clips and images that elicit positive feelings like joy and contentment were able to generate more responses when filling out a form that asked what they would like to do. Individuals who were shown images that created feelings of anger or fear weren’t able to create as many responses.
This result is because when you’re experiencing negative emotions, your world-view narrows — you see only the problem and its possible solutions instead of the possibilities that exist in your life. This reaction is part of your body’s fight-or-flight response — the same adrenal reaction that occurs when you’re under physical threat.
When you’re angry or afraid, you can’t think of anything else. When you’re happy or content, the world is your oyster, and you’re able to look forward.
Thinking Happier Thoughts
What can you do to improve your mental outlook, even in the most stressful situations?
- Come home to a clean house: If you’ve got a lot of clutter in your home, it’s probably contributing to your poor outlook. Clutter overwhelms your mind and increases your production of the stress hormone cortisol. Take some time to get rid of the clutter to improve your mental health.
- Keep your door open: Not literally — you don’t want to let flies in — but figuratively. Keeping the door open for communication within your home can help to improve your outlook and make it easier to think happy thoughts.
- Take time to play: Children find joy in everything, as we’ve already mentioned, and we should take a page out of their book. Take some time to play together as a family, whether that entails baking cookies, planting a garden or just playing a board game.
Happiness is an essential part of your physical and mental health. Take some time to learn how to think happy thoughts so that those thoughts can help you live a healthier and overall happier life.
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